GR5: Maps And Guides

Walker's Haute Route - 07-155-small We’re using the new Paddy Dillon version of the Cicerone GR5 guide book.

Paddy writes the text as he walks on an old palm-top so it’s as accurate as it can be.

By our Alpine walking standards the days are quite large. The first day is 25K with 1090M of height and from then on they tend to get larger. So we’re breaking them down into smaller chunks (as he says you can easily do in the podcast with Andy Howell). We’re also making the first day very short partly because we couldn’t find accommodation where we wanted and partly because a short day gives plenty of leeway for EasyJet to mess up our timings!

Maps for a route of this size are tricky. Ideally you’d take a 1:25,000 for each section. But that’s a total of 21 maps. Even if you buy from The Map Shop (who hold a huge range of maps at very reasonable prices) that works out to be £157.50 (at £7.50 per map).

Besides, 21 maps would be very heavy. They are around 90 grams each meaning a total weight of 1.9KG!

Paddy rather dismissively mentions the TopoGuides series (without actually mentioning that you need numbers 504, 530, 531 and 507). His objection seems to be that you’d have to “carry four guidebooks”. Which I can understand, but since they weigh in at a total of 650 grams for the lot that’s a considerable weight saving against the 1:25,000s. They appear to have perfectly usable maps too.

Walker's Haute Route - 07-236-small

Of course the other way to do it is to pick up maps on the route, and then post them home as you go.

I can see the appeal of that but I don’t think it works for me. It means that you have to find somewhere to buy a new map every two or three days. I think I’d find that something of a distraction. I know that once I settle into a walk, my planning abilities tend to become very short term (where’s a good spot to sit down for lunch?) and I am sure I’d manage to walk right off the edge of my last map before realising that I was a couple of days walk from the nearest place to buy the next one.

Part of the appeal of a long walk for me is to get all the planning done up-front and then just amble along in a sort of Zen state of enjoying where I am and who I’m with.

As it happens we’re being joined on the first section of the walk by some of the usual suspects from our other Big Walks. So we’re taking IGN Bleue 1:25,000 numbers 3528ET, 3548ET, 3428 ET. We’ll then be able to hand those over to our friends when we leave them at the Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme (where I proposed to LB in fact). Our friends will be retracing their steps to Les Contamines Montjoie to get a transfer out the next day while we head for Nice using the remaining three TopoGuides.

It’s worth noting that the guide-book has a mistake here. The first map listed in the book (and on the Cicerone site) is “3548ET”. Which doesn’t exist. But it’s actually the 3528ET. I’ve mentioned it to Cicerone so I’d expect an Updates tab on that page soon.  (I have no idea if there are any other typos in there since I’ve not checked further down the route).

Dave with maps of GR5-smallBut one other reason that I would have liked to get the 1:25,000 maps, was to lay them all out on the floor (somewhere with a rather large floor) so that we could get a feeling for how long the route really is. We’re very used to judging distance based on that particular scale of map so it would have been a great way to let the length of the route sink in.

We’ve started mapping it out in Google Earth and just seeing that the distance from the starting point at Thonon-les-Bains down to Nice is easily a third the height of France is one way to understand the size of it.

But I still couldn’t resist seeing it on paper so I bought the 1:100,000 scale “Carte De Promenade” cycle touring maps from The Map Shop (no.s 45, 53, 54, 61) so we could lay those out on the floor!

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